April 14, 2021

Cayman Islands looks for a new way forward with UK relationship

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● Foreign Affairs Select Committee considers resilience of Overseas Territories

● Cayman Islands representative answers review questions in London

● Cayman’s constitutional relationship with UK discussed

LONDON – Eric Bush today told members of the House of Commons Foreign Affairs Select Committee that the Cayman Islands has identified opportunities to work with the United Kingdom to strengthen the relationship between the two countries.

Mr. Bush, the UK representative for the Cayman Islands in London, fielded questions from the committee, which is considering the resilience of the Overseas Territories, how effectively the Foreign and Commonwealth Office manages its responsibilities toward the OTs and how it sees their future.

“We welcome the opportunity to contribute to this review by the Foreign Affairs Select Committee into the future of the Overseas Territories,” said Cayman Islands Premier Hon. Alden McLaughlin. “There are few such opportunities for us to actively contribute to open discussions about our place in the United Kingdom family of nations, and in light of recent questionable legislative activities, it is of paramount importance to us to review and improve our constitutional relationship with the United Kingdom.

“As a small Islands state we punch well above our weight as a leading place to live, visit and do business,” he said. “To assure this, we understand the need to be outward facing to global opportunities and challenges.”

MP Andrew Rosindell began the questioning by asking Mr. Bush about his views on Brexit, the eventual separation between the UK and the European Union, and any associated risks to Cayman’s political stability and economic success.

“With the realities of Brexit, the UK is going to be more concerned about their own external affairs,” Mr. Bush said. “For the Cayman Islands, the risk for us is that we need to be more proactive with assistance by the UK Government in forming our own international identity.

“We accept Brexit is a reality and therefore we are looking for the opportunities,” he said. “We have no official ties to the EU except for being British. The risks of Brexit are all within the global risk of what it is to be British.”

And it is that sense of being British that makes the Cayman Islands a strong country in which to help the UK Government in its campaign of a Global Britain. Mr. Bush said all of the OTs and Crown Dependencies have much to offer in broadening the UK’s global footprint, from biodiversity, financial services and healthcare to many pockets of excellence.

He explained that the Cayman Islands represented Global Britain last year when it took humanitarian aid police forces to Turks and Caicos, Anguilla and the British Virgin Islands after those countries were ravaged by hurricanes Irma and Maria.

“There was a lot of criticism in the UK about the timeliness of the response from the UK,” Mr. Bush said. “But the Global British response was pretty good.”

He told committee members that the constitutional relationship between the UK and Cayman is dated and needs to be reformed.

A contentious issue between the UK and the OTs has been the passing of the Sanctions and Anti-Money Laundering Act 2018 earlier this year in the UK Parliament.

MP Mike Grape pressed Mr. Bush on whether the Cayman Islands would adhere to the law, which does not come into force until the end of 2020.

“Government has been quite vocal in saying that it amounts to constitutional overreach,” Mr. Bush said. “The Premier in 2013 came to the UK and made it clear that the Cayman Islands would be an early adopter once and when it becomes a global standard.”

He also told the members that it is important to recognise that the Cayman Islands and the UK Government share the goal in fighting against money laundering, tax evasion, terror financing and other monetary crimes.

“The Act betrayed years of constructive conversation,” Mr. Bush said. “There was a sense of disbelief for us. There is a disconnect. That’s where the management of the relationship comes in and that’s at the heart of this review.”

Mr. Bush’s talks with the Committee came a week after the Cayman Islands issued a requested written response that asserts that the UK Government’s responsibilities toward Cayman’s constitutional relationship should be clarified. The response also offers suggestions to improve the effectiveness of the Overseas Territories Directorate and relationship management with the FCO.

Committee members had the submission, which offers recommendations made by the Cayman Islands to clarify and strengthen the relationship between the Islands and the UK.

Those recommendations include:

● Safeguards to protect the Cayman Islands, and indeed the wider British Overseas Territory family, from future constitutional overreach by the Houses of Parliament, and that the safeguards be established in partnership with the wishes of our governments.

● The UK Government should facilitate Ministerial engagement from the Government of the Cayman Islands with requisite UK Government ministers and departments, so the international community and relevant forums are reassured we are being represented in keeping with the UK’s obligations.

● An invitation for the UK Government to review ministerial responsibility in relation to the Government of the Cayman Islands, including designation of ministers in each relevant department to ensure total cross-Whitehall participation as required.

● That the Cabinet Office work to integrate the British Overseas Territories requirements into the existing COBRA Civil Contingencies frameworks and engage with British Overseas Territory Representatives in London on a regular basis as well as in emergency situations.

● That the UK assess the suitability of moving to the Australian State Governor appointment process whereby the Crown directly appoints the Governor instead of the FCO and the appointment of the Governor be subject to the veto of the Government of the Cayman Islands.

● That the Cabinet Office, through the Commonwealth Secretariat, make every effort to involve the Government of the Cayman Islands on all elements of Commonwealth engagement, with the exception at this time of full membership.

● That every effort be made by the UK Government to improve the standing of the position of the British Overseas Territory Representative.

The FCO has primary responsibility for the UK Overseas Territories, which are spread across four oceans and eight time zones. These dispersed territories support the UK’s global reach but ensuring their security and stability, while respecting the principle of self-government presents a major challenge to the FCO.

In recent years the OTs have been exposed to shocks, from the Panama Papers in 2015, the Brexit vote in 2016 and hurricanes Irma and Maria in 2017. These have led some OTs to question the UK’s willingness to support them. Relations have also been strained because of high-profile instances of divergence between the UK and some of the OTs on issues such as civil rights and financial transparency.

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View video here: Start time 15:50:58

https://www.parliamentlive.tv/Event/Index/3c10d268-0a6d-4241-8300-07c502959215

IMAGE: Eric Bush

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